February 2016 Newsletter

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February's News from Bookbag Towers

Hi, hello and a very happy February to all our readers. It's been a long slog but we are nearing winter's end and that's a relief, isn't it? We're looking forward to some spring sunshine and some fabulous spring books.

David Bowie died. And the nation was shocked and grief-stricken. We were no different. And so, in memory of one our great cultural icons, we perused this list of the great man's top 100 books. The list is as eclectic as you'd expect and inspirational, too.

We were rather depressed to read this: children's books currently get just 3% of all book review space, despite accounting for over 30% of the market. It's true. Thank heavens for the internet, where there is a lively community writing and talking about books for young people, don't you think?

But here's a cool thing. Reading can improve your mental health. Stephen Fry, Sir Ian McKellen and Melvyn Bragg have each given deeply personal interviews to academics as part of a free online course which considers how poems, plays and novels can help us to understand and cope with deep emotional distress. The course is called Literature and mental health: Reading for wellbeing and we think it sounds like a truly positive initiative.

Golden Hour

We thought we'd offer you some non-fiction for a change in this month's blast from the past. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell is perhaps the seminal work in English about the Spanish Civil War. Written in Orwell's admirably spare yet wonderfully evocative prose, it's a searingly honest book, almost a rite of passage. It talks of the realities of the trenches and of the politics and of the feelings. Bookbag truly can't rate it highly enough. Sincerity and honesty spring from its pages and rack its brains as it might, Bookbag can't think of a single bad thing to say about it. If you haven't already, you should read it.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, Louise thinks you should look at When the Floods Came by Clare Morrall. In a post-apocalyptic world, a close-knit family live isolated from the rest of the country. One day a mysterious young man arrives, changing everything forever. But who is Aashay Kent and why is he so interested in the Polanskis? Morral's world is alien, yet somehow recognisable. It is not so different from our own; which in itself is terrifying. This book is thoroughly absorbing.

In non-fiction, John recommends The Lost Tudor Princess: A Life of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox. Weir never lets us down and here we find a very full life and times of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, one of the more shadowy, lesser known Tudor royal figures. Like so many others who were closely related to King Henry VIII and his children, she led an often quite a precarious life saddened by personal tragedy and marked by suspicion of treasonable activities. Hers is a fascinating story.

For the younger ones, this month we are recommending the fabulous Dreaming the Bear by Mimi Thebo . Darcy's a typical teenager whose natural habitat is the shopping mall and the multiplex. It's therefore not surprising that she's finding it almost impossible to adjust to living in a snowy wilderness without television, a phone signal or wifi. So what will happen when she stumbles into the shelter of a cave and finds herself embraced by a hibernating grizzly bear? Hauntingly beautiful, almost dreamlike in places, Dreaming the Bear is likely to become a children's classic comparable to David Almond's Skellig.

For the teens, Jill loved The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil . A YouTube video goes viral, predicting the end of the world which will be survived only in a rural Australian town. Alba and her friends must negotiate the countdown as well as their own comings-of-age. We don't get much in the way of Aussie YA here in the UK and, going by Cinnamon Girl, this is a shame. It's a fab coming-of-age story with a glorious sense of the absurd and just the right amount of romance.

Features

More author interviews for you this month!

Last year Rebecca enjoyed Michael Pronko's first book of essays on Tokyo life and she was delighted to be able to review his third book, Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo. She had quite a few questions for Michael when he popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.

And Stacey thought that The Man Who Drew Triangles: Magician, mystic or out of his mind? by Haraldur Erlendsson and Keith Hagenbach was a thrilling, plot-twistingly good tale of folklore, legends, spirits and ultimately of thinking a little differently. She had quite a few questions for the authors when they popped into Bookbag Towers.

Reviewers

We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!

Competitions

We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!

And that's about it for this month. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at www.thebookbag.co.uk .

All at Bookbag Towers

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